January 22, 2009

Web Reconnaissance for 01/22/2009

A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

In the News: (Registration may be required to read some stories)
Obama Starts Reversing Bush Policies - President Obama moved swiftly yesterday to begin rolling back eight years of his predecessor's policies, ordering tough new ethics rules and preparing to issue an order closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been at the center of the debate over the treatment of U.S.... (READ MORE)

Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages - If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past. (READ MORE)

Kennedy Drops Bid For Seat In Senate - NEW YORK, Jan. 22 -- Caroline Kennedy, daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy and scion to the political dynasty, withdrew her name from the list of contenders for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, hours after Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state late Wednesday. (READ MORE)

By Switching Their Charters, Banks Skirt Supervision - At least 30 banks since 2000 have escaped federal regulatory action by walking away from their federal regulators and moving under state supervision, taking advantage of a long-standing system that allows banks to choose between federal and state oversight, according to a Washington Post review... (READ MORE)

Iraqi Voters Getting a Taste of Retail Politics - BAGHDAD, Jan. 21 -- Facing a skeptical and sometimes hostile crowd, 13 candidates vying for seats on Baghdad's provincial council passed around a microphone for three hours during a town hall debate this month as voters threw out questions and challenged their answers. (READ MORE)

Dean Resigns; Kaine Is Now DNC Chair - Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, five years ago a laughingstock after his infamous scream following his loss in the Iowa presidential primary, stepped down as chairman of the Democratic National Committee yesterday to thunderous applause as party members credited him with helping Democrats... (READ MORE)

Obama and Guantanamo - Campaign promises are so much easier to adhere to when they're strictly hypothetical, as Barack Obama is discovering. The then-President-elect said 10 days ago on ABC that while he still plans to close Guantanamo, "it is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize" and that "many" of the enemy combatants are "very dangerous." (READ MORE)

Geithner's Tax Code - Nobody likes a know-it-all, so perhaps there was some useful humanity in Tim Geithner's imperfect answers during yesterday's Senate confirmation hearings. The Treasury nominee faced questions about his failure to pay payroll taxes for several years, and he's lucky the votes on his confirmation will come from Senators, and during a financial panic, rather than from a jury of his taxpaying peers. (READ MORE)

Silencing Islam's Critics - The latest twist in the clash between Western values and the Muslim world took place yesterday in the Netherlands, where a court ordered the prosecution of lawmaker and provocateur Geert Wilders for inciting violence. The Dutch MP and leader of the Freedom Party, which opposes Muslim immigration into Holland, will stand trial soon for his harsh criticism of Islam. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
Baron Bodissey: “I Will Not Stand Trial Alone” - There’s one thing you can say about the Dutch political establishment: it is thoroughly immune to irony. The images of burning cars and firebombed synagogues have barely faded from the TV screens of the Netherlands. The cries of “Heil Hitler!” and “Jews to the gas!” that mingled with “Allahu akhbar!” are still echoing in the glass-strewn streets. Yet Geert Wilders — who speaks out against these barbaric forces, and proposes to halt the Islamization of his country in order to put a stop to them — is the one who is being prosecuted for “hate speech”. The true heirs of National Socialism rage unimpeded through the streets of Europe, while Geert Wilders is the one who “incites hatred” and “insults groups of people”. (READ MORE)

Lawhawk: Caroline Kennedy Takes Name Out of Senate Bid - Caroline Kennedy, who was spurred to throw her name into the ring to replace Hillary Clinton as Senator from New York because of the service of her uncle Ted and the Obama victory, has had a change of heart. She's taken her name out of the running. “Ms. Kennedy on Wednesday called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to inform him that she no longer wished to be considered. The person told of her decision said that Ms. Kennedy’s concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who suffers from brain cancer and was hospitalized after suffering a seizure Tuesday, prompted her to withdraw. Ms. Kennedy believed that the job was hers if she would accept it, the person said, but aides to Mr. Paterson would not comment on whether that was true.” (READ MORE)

Donald Douglas: Socialist Hopes for the Obama Presidency - Today's Wall Street Journal features a roundup of commentary from folks like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and ex-con junk bond-king turned philantropist Michael Milken. But Katrina vanden Heuval's opening essay is a socialist eye-opener: “Mr. Obama has a mandate for change. People support reconstruction of America's crumbling physical infrastructure, and of our society. Here are a few steps I hope Mr. Obama will take: Reverse our deepening economic inequality by using this country's still immense wealth to assure that all Americans have the health care, housing and education they need; re-engage the world with wisdom and humility about the limits of military power; cut billions from wasteful defense budgets that empty our treasury without making us more secure;” (READ MORE)

American Ranger: Where Do We Go From Here? - Now that we have President Barack Obama, we must look beyond the pretty pictures, the fancy ceremonies, the coins, the hats, the t-shirts and all the other superficial things. In short order, we will learn exactly where our new president will take us. There are some indications that the president might try to lead from the center, but some of his first appointments make us cringe. The left has its socialist ropes around Obama’s ankles and they are pulling with everything they have. The right is sitting in a quiet room as they wait to see what will transpire over the next few weeks and months. The vast majority of Americans are in the center and they are praying that they did the right thing when they selected Mr. Obama as their leader. Let us hope that the ghosts of the former presidents will stand at Obama’s side and guide him along the traditional American path. (READ MORE)

Richard Landes: The Palestinians’ Worst Enemy: The Poisoned Gift of European Anti-Semitism - I had a conversation with a remarkable Palestinian advocate of human rights several years ago when I tried to show him the material I had on Pallywood. As we discussed the problem, and his helplessness to even address it, it became clear to me that the single most insidious enemy of the Palestinians is the European loathing of an independent Jewish nation. What seemed to Palestinians like a gift — Europeans’ hostility to Israel — has ended up strengthening the worst aspects of Palestinian culture, its irredentism, its preference for suffering Palestinians, its thirst for hatred. And this is nowhere more evident than when Palestinians try and go sober, try and kick their addiction to hatred, try to turn from gnawing on old wounds to growing new life. Then they run into their most fearful demon, the sympathetic hater in the West: (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The Grand Inquisitors - Up to a hundred Palestinians in Gaza who have defied house arrest orders have been tortured in children’s hospitals and schools converted into interrogation centers. People have been shot in the legs or had their hands broken. The campaign has been described as a “new massacre”. One victim had his eyes put out. No one was safe from the torturers, not even those attending funerals. When is will the UN act to put a stop to this horror? Won’t President Obama intervene to stop these barbaric acts? Aren’t international human rights monitors going to put a stop to this? When will War Crimes charges be preferred against the perpetrators? Never. Why? Because Hama is in charge of the torture and their victims are simply Fatah members. If it were Israel who had done these things, well then … But since it’s Hamas, the same Hamas for whom thousands have been marching in ’solidarity’, it’s a non-story. The Jersualem Post cites reports from Fatah members describing the events. (READ MORE)

Blackfive: Lessons in Leadership from a Janitor - A few years ago, when I was putting "The Blog of War" together, I would go to either my neighborhood Panera (free wi-fi, good coffee) or a local pub. One night after work, I stopped by the pub, sat in my usual chair at the end, ordered a Guinness, pulled out the 200+ pages of copy, and started editing with a green pencil. And next to me, just about every night that I was there, was a small elderly gentleman. We'd occasionally trade comments about sports or whatever was on the plasma screens hanging over the whiskey selection. Or he'd make a joke about being Italian and drinking Irish beer and eating nachos. "Ain't America great?", he would always ask. After a few weeks, Dom finally asks me what I'm doing with all those papers. He thought I was a lawyer. So, I tell him about blogs and the book. We talk and I can tell he's actually interested in the book and the blogs (rather than the glassy eyed 1000-yard stare civilians may give occasionally). So, I ask him if he ever served. (READ MORE)

Walid Phares: Bin Laden: Gaza is one of the many fronts of "World Jihad" - To Usama Bin Laden, the confrontation in Gaza is not a local national issue but it is part of what he coins as world Jihad against the Kuffars (infidels), or more precisely the “Crusader-Zionist enemy.” This stark ideological reminder came through a new audio message by the leader of al Qaeda at a time Israeli forces and Hamas’Jihadists were still fighting in the enclave. The Bin Laden address was titled “Call to Jihad to stop the aggression against Gaza” and was addressed to the “Umma” (Islamic Nation). The following is my analysis of this latest tape. The usual questions first: The media’s first questions are about identification and timing. Is it really Bin Laden on the tape and if so, why is he talking now after long months of silence? While many question the survival of the man who ordered the 9/11 attacks until now, the counter terrorism community as a whole still believe that Usama Bin Laden is alive; this is his voice but arguments are different and diverse. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Suppose there had not been an Iraq War - Now that the war in Iraq is won - it was in pretty good shape when President Bush left office - and a new era dawns over Baghdad, it is worth reviewing the claims by liberals that this was an unnecessary war. Suppose there had been no war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein would still be in charge. Abu Ghraib would still exist. Instead of placing hoods on inmates and making them stand on chairs and otherwise humiliating them, as a few disgraced troops did, inmates would be tortured, bodies mutilated and people executed by Hussein's henchmen. Headless torsos would still be thrown on lawns in the dead of night, the Hussein equivalent of burning a cross. And families would still be billed for the bullets that killed their loved ones. Hussein's insane sons, Oday and Qusay, would still be alive. Women would still be raped on their wedding days. Olympic teams would still be physically punished for losing a game. (READ MORE)

Yankeemom: We The People - For supposedly being a scholar of Constitutional law, Obama’s inaugural speech showed a deep lack of comprehension of The Constitution itself. (My comments are in parenthesis.) “My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.” (We the People have, but I can’t say the same for our governing body) (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Qaddafi: Try the one-state solution - Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi offers Israel some free advice in today’s New York Times, and it’s worth every penny. Qaddafi suggests that Israel consider flinging open its borders and allowing the Palestinians to become Israelis in the one-state model, since Israel has already assimilated a million or so Arabs. That will bring peace and happiness, even though their enemies want to impose an Islamist government and kill all the Jews: “THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.” (READ MORE)

This Ain't hell: Obama blows off Medal of Honor recipients [Jonn] - According to TSO who was at the “Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball”, this newly sworn-in President for the first time in 56 years blew off the ball (that’s 14 Inaugurations). Some background on the ball; “The American Legion sponsors the ball, which recognizes recipients of Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. It started in 1953 for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first inauguration. Event co-sponsors include 13 other veterans service organizations, among them the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.” So where was our new President instead of honoring Medal of Honor recipients who by some miracle are still alive? According to Huffington Post, this was his schedule for Inaugural celebrations: (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Bold Step Drastically Contemplated - Obama admin circulates a draft order to close Gitmo in a year. You can call that a pander if you want, or you could call it a major toe in the water. Key details via Yahoo News: “…While some of the detainees currently held at Guantanamo would be released, others would be transferred elsewhere and later put on trial under terms to be determined. It was not known when Obama intended to issue the order.” That last one may be the most critical aspects of this important new way of doing things under the Obama administration, although the second point strongly suggests they haven’t entirely figured out what they are doing, while the first, of course, is a clear indication they don’t know what they are talking about. (READ MORE)

Knee Deep in the Hooah!: President, admonish thyself (aka, practice what you preach) - I hope he heeds his own words. Remember, “change we can believe in?” “Change has come to America.” What a load of crap. We all know that this is politics as usual. It always has been and always will be. So, here’s the “change” and Obama’s example of “putting away with childish things,” as he likes to admonish us to do. The new definition of “childish” is criticizing anything that Obama says or does. That does not go both ways of course, and Bush Derangement Syndrome is still alive and going in DC, and on the new and improved, tinglicious, White House website. Isn’t that special? Here’s a link to the article on BDS online, courtesy of the all new and improved, shiny, sparkly, and tingly Administration that claims they are “above all that.” (READ MORE)

AJStrata: Update On al Qaeda’s Biological Weapon Mishap In Algeria - One of the most disturbing stories since we learned Polonium 210 was being traipsed through London and Europe surfaced yesterday. Polonium 210 is optimal as two kinds of WMD. First, it is a key element in early atomic weapons as part of the nuclear trigger which causes the atomic blast. Second, it is deadly in microscopic doses and would make a great chemical WMD. The fact that large amounts were discovered in London, where a shady character by the name of Alexander Litvinenko died of massive exposure, seemed to his blogger to indicate an accident from smuggling the dangerous material. Nearly undetectable, the material was conveniently cast as a weapon of assassination, though the quantities involved seem to indicate more Po-210 was moving through London than needed to kill off one quirky dissident. Yesterday’s news was about an apparent accident with a possible biological weapon - the Pneumonic Plague. (READ MORE)

Victor Davis Hanson: An Uneasy Feeling - Yesterday.. All Americans must appreciate the outpouring of good will, unity, and hope for a successful Obama administration. But I had a certain feeling of uncertainty yesterday at the coverage of the festivities. Let me preface that worry: I did not think much of Bill Clinton our modern-day Alcibiades. But all through his administration, and of course before and after it, I thought a great deal of the United States, especially in comparison to the alternative. Before Clinton bombed Milosevic in 1998 I believed that it would have been wiser to have gone to Congress and gotten an authorization to use force (as in the case of Bush in 2002). He might have also at least tried to convince the UN (as Bush attempted in fall 2002). But no matter: he began bombing he said to stop genocide, and I wrote an op-ed at the time for the Wall Street Journal calling for unity to ensure an American victory over Milosevic. (READ MORE)

Melissa Clouthier: Government Can't Save You: Just Live Your Life - The government can't save you. But you can save you. Is life really that bad out there? I still don't believe America is anywhere near the misery of the 1920s and 1930s. I actually think Americans are still relatively wealthy. Even with cutting back, people have accumulated so much stuff, unnecessary stuff, that a couple year recession could take hold and people could maintain their currently obscene standard of living. So, when there is talk of government bailouts and stimulus packages, what needs to be stimulated, exactly? People who are given something for nothing aren't usually grateful for it. To quote Rihanna and TI: “Some move away to make a way not move away cause they afraid. I'll go back to the hood and all you ever did was take away.” (READ MORE)

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred: Black Hats, White Hats And Make Believe Palestinian Tea Parties - Iraq, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel- the very names of those countries and organizations conjures up images of experts, analysts and nameless, faceless ’spokespeople,’ all outraged that somehow, their twisted explanations of events as they happen, aren’t taken at face value. Other experts, analysts and nameless, faceless ’spokespeople,’ exist primarily to demonize their opponents. Sometimes, it can be hard to follow along, much less come to a rational and thoughtful understanding of the politics and events in the region. It is with that in mind that SC&A will provide the clarity that is necessary to understand that jigsaw puzzle that is the Middle East. There are white hats and black hats and who is wearing what hat is easy to discern. The Israelis wear white hats and the Arab world wear black hats. It really is that simple. The Palestinians are suffering at the hands of their own, not at the hands of Israel. (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: A defining moment - So the inevitable has now come about in the teetering civilisation of Europe, and it has happened first in the Netherlands. One of the supposedly most liberal societies on the planet wants to criminalise someone for telling the truth. The BBC reports that Dutch Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders is to be put on trial: “‘...for for inciting hatred and discrimination, based on comments by him in various media on Muslims and their beliefs’...In March 2008, Mr Wilders posted a film about the Koran on the internet, prompting angry protests across the Muslim World. The opening scenes of Fitna - a Koranic term sometimes translated as ‘strife’ - show a copy of the holy book followed by footage of the bomb attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, London in July 2005 and Madrid in March 2004.” (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: President Obama - The time honored change of power in Washington is one of the great successes of our democracy, where winners take hold of the reins of power and the losers go home to write their memoirs. Our new President comes to power at a particularly difficult time. President Obama is a stirring, powerful, and eloquent orator. His ability to give a great speech, though his inaugural speech had obvious shortcomings (sounding too much like a campaign speech), should not be underestimated. After spending the last 8 years with a President who was lacking in oratorical and rhetorical skills, it will be a relief to have a President who could, should he choose to exert himself, clearly explain his policies. His inaugural speech, however, is not evidence that he will use his skills to clarify and elucidate; we must hope that when the time comes that he can no longer avoid making decisions (he is the decider after all) that he will make clear decisions and explain why he has made such decisions. (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: Pigs fly. Hell freezes over. ACLU sues Muslims over publicly-funded madrassa - Mirabile dictu! The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the government-subsidized Muslim charter school in Minnesota. You’ll recall that Katharine Kersten did terrific investigative reporting of the CAIR-supported public school, called “TIZA” (Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy). In a rare stand against their left-wing fellow travelers, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the academy’s use of taxpayer dollars to promote Islam: “The Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says it’s suing a charter school that caters to Muslim students. The ACLU names Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, or TiZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education in a lawsuit in federal court that says the charter school is using taxpayer money to illegally promote religion.” (READ MORE)

Karl Rove: Bush Was Right When It Mattered Most - Its call sign has always been Air Force One. But on Tuesday, it was Special Air Mission 28000, as former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura returned home to Texas on a plane full of family, friends, former staff and memories of eight years in the White House. The former president and his wife thanked each passenger, showing the thoughtfulness and grace so characteristic of this wonderful American family. A video tribute produced warm laughter and inevitable tears. There was no bitterness, but rather a sense of gratitude -- gratitude for the opportunity to serve, for able and loyal colleagues, and above all for our country and its people. Yet, as Mr. Bush left Washington, in a last angry frenzy his critics again distorted his record, maligned his character and repeated untruths about his years in the Oval Office. Nothing they wrote or said changes the essential facts. (READ MORE)

David Roche: A 'Bad' Bank Can Solve Our Problems - As bank shares plunge to new lows around the world, it seems we have entered the next stage of the financial crisis -- most likely the last chapter in this horror story. The final word will probably be nationalization of the major financial institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom and in many other countries. How has it come to this? The global credit crisis and the ensuing economic slump we are now entering have both ultimate and proximate causes. The ultimate cause was the ingrained social behavior of the U.S., the U.K. and many other economies over the past two decades that put instant gratification of consumption over the ability to pay for it. Thrift gave way to borrowing and excessive spending. That in turn led to huge global imbalances and distortions. The proximate cause of the crisis was how these excesses were financed through liquidity creation in innovative ways and in huge proportions. (READ MORE)

Daniel Henninger: Obama at History's 'Hinge Point' - Some said after the inauguration that Mr. Obama's speech failed to meet Lincolnesque expectations. This reflects how much of life now is measured as performance art. The Rev. Rick Warren explained the simple truth of why no slam-dunk speech was necessary: "We know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven." Bearing witness was sufficient. The million or more standing cold before the Capitol proved that. Still, the Obama presidency begins in paradox. On a day of immense import, the accession of the first black American to the White House, the stock market fell 332 points, the worst Inauguration Day sell-off in 113 years. It fell again to Pastor Warren to find -- or create -- the right word for the moment, noting the country had arrived at "the hinge point of history." What's a hinge point? My brief search for a definition of "hinge point" produced nothing... (READ MORE)

Robert J. Barro: Government Spending Is No Free Lunch - Back in the 1980s, many commentators ridiculed as voodoo economics the extreme supply-side view that across-the-board cuts in income-tax rates might raise overall tax revenues. Now we have the extreme demand-side view that the so-called "multiplier" effect of government spending on economic output is greater than one -- Team Obama is reportedly using a number around 1.5. To think about what this means, first assume that the multiplier was 1.0. In this case, an increase by one unit in government purchases and, thereby, in the aggregate demand for goods would lead to an increase by one unit in real gross domestic product (GDP). Thus, the added public goods are essentially free to society. If the government buys another airplane or bridge, the economy's total output expands by enough to create the airplane or bridge without requiring a cut in anyone's consumption or investment. (READ MORE)

Arthur C. Brooks: Conservatives Have Answered Obama's Call - "What is required of us now," President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address this week, "is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world." It is a message that nonprofit organizations would like our nation to take to heart, as 2009 fund-raising begins. Unfortunately, we nonprofit leaders, like our for-profit counterparts, are laying awake nights. The end of 2008 was disappointing for philanthropy, and some believe that 2009 will be difficult as well. Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy publishes the Philanthropic Giving Index (PGI), which tracks the predictions of nonprofit leaders about charitable giving. Like the more-famous Consumer Confidence Index, it shows a level of gloom not seen in years, falling from 83 to 65 (on a 0-100 scale) in just six months. (READ MORE)

Ann Coulter: More Boos Than Balls - It will not be easy for President B. Hussein Obama. More than half the country voted for him, and yet our newspapers are brimming with snippy remarks at every little aspect of his inauguration. Here's a small sampling of the churlishness in just The New York Times: -- The American public is bemused by the tasteless show-biz extravaganza surrounding Barack Obama's inauguration today. -- There is something to be said for some showiness in an inauguration. But one felt discomfited all the same. -- This is an inauguration, not a coronation. -- Is there a parallel between Mrs. Obama's jewel-toned outfit and somebody else's glass slippers? Why limousines and not shank's mare? -- It is still unclear whether we are supposed to shout "Whoopee!" or "Shame!" about the new elegance the Obamas are bringing to Washington. (READ MORE)

Larry Elder: Obama Begins -- and So Does the Resurrection of Bush - This week, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. So now the governing begins -- along with the resurrection of George W. Bush's reputation. Candidate Obama promised to pull all the troops from Iraq within the first year to 16 months of his administration. President Obama intends to retain Bush's secretary of Defense, Robert Gates -- a man who supported Bush's courageous decision to "surge" and send 30,000 troops, an action that then-Sen. Obama opposed while predicting its failure. When, post-surge, violence in Iraq dramatically declined, candidate Obama refused -- for a long time -- to credit the surge, later pointing to the lack of Iraqi "political reconciliation." But the supposedly nonexistent political reconciliation produced a U.S.-Iraqi agreement -- supported by Gates -- for troops to remain until 2011. (READ MORE)

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